Ponte City Apartments
Ponte City is a skyscraper in the Hillbrow neighbourhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. It was built in 1975 to a height of 173 m (567.6 ft), making it the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa. The 54-story building is cylindrical, with an open center allowing additional light into the apartments. The center space is known as "the core" and rises above an uneven rock floor. Ponte City was an extremely desirable address for its views over all of Johannesburg and its surroundings. The sign on top of the building is the highest and largest sign in the southern hemisphere. It currently advertises the South African mobile phone company Vodacom.

The principal designer of Ponte was Mannie Feldman, working in a team together with Manfred Hermer and Rodney Grosskopf. Rodney Grosskopff recalled the decision to make the building circular, the first cylindrical skyscraper in Africa. At the time, Johannesburg bylaws required kitchens and bathrooms to have a window, so Grosskopff designed the building with a hollow interior, allowing light to enter the apartments from both sides. At the bottom of the immense building were retail stores and initial plans were to include an indoor ski slope on the 32,000 square foot inner core floor. The building was so tall because developers wanted a large number of units but only had limited land to build on. The building was located 15 minutes from the OR Tambo International Airport and almost within walking distance of the innercity with theatres like the Market and the Civic within 5 km (3.1 mi).

During the late 80s gang activity had caused the crime rate to soar at the tower and the surrounding neighbourhood. By the 1990s, after the end of apartheid, many gangs moved into the building and it became extremely unsafe. Ponte City became symbolic of the crime and urban decay gripping the once cosmopolitan Hillbrow neighborhood. The core filled with debris five stories high as the owners left the building to decay. There were even proposals in the mid-1990s to turn the building into a highrise prison. In 2001 Trafalgar Properties took over management of the building and began making some much needed changes to the building.

New Ponte
In May 2007 Ponte changed ownership and a re-development project New Ponte was put in motion. David Selvan and Nour Addine Ayyoub under Ayyoub's company, Investagain, planned to totally revitalize the building. The planned development would have contained 467 residential units, retail and leisure-time areas. Over the next few years, the Johannesburg Development Agency planned to invest about R900-million in the areas around Ponte City such as the Ellis Park Precinct project, as well as an upgrade of Hillbrow and Berea partly in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The sub-prime crisis caused the banks not to provide the funding to finish the revitalisation, the project was cancelled and ownership was given back to the Kempston group. The building is currently owned and operated by the Kempston group.

In popular culture

  • In February 2007 director Danny Boyle ( Trainspotting , 28 Days Later , and Slumdog Millionaire ) announced his intention to film a thriller set in the tower.
  • One of the final shots of the 2009 film District 9 is of the tower.

  • German writer Norman Ohler used the Ponte as the setting for his book Stadt des Goldes, "Ponte sums up all the hope, all the wrong ideas of modernism, all the decay, all the craziness of the city. It is a symbolic building, a sort of white whale, it is concrete fear, the tower of Babel, and yet it is strangely beautiful".


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Building Activity

  • Francois Engelbrecht
    Francois Engelbrecht commented
    I heard the project has come to a halt.
    about 6 years ago via Mobile
  • removed a media and updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator